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The Canadian Space Agency WildFireSat Satellite Would Monitor Wildfires

How we monitor wildfires is about to change. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is looking into the feasibility of building a small satellite called WildFireSat with the purpose of monitoring wildfires.

Yesterday the CSA issued a Phase A request for proposals that would award up to two contracts for studies to determine the feasibility of developing a forest fire monitoring satellite dubbed WildFireSat (WFS).

With wildfires seemingly increasing as an issue, this idea makes sense. However, WFS is just the initial idea of what could someday lead to a constellation of space-based sensors that would provide a service of real-time coverage for Canadian or global wildfire monitoring.

For now though, WFS would provide an initial capability including;

  • Near real-time information in support of wildland fire management and research;
  • Emission measurements in support of international requirements for carbon reporting;
  • Improved smoke and air quality forecasting.

The CSA describes in part mission objectives as;

“The WildFireSat (WFS) mission responds to a need identified by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)’s Canadian Forest Service (CFS), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and academia, to increase Canada’s ability to monitor wildland fires within Canada.”

“It should be emphasized that WFS represents a wildfire monitoring capability and not a wildfire detection capability. A key mission objective of WFS is to monitor accurately the radiated power from wildfires to infer their characteristics and be able to improve fire management practices and report on carbon emission. The mission would confirm that the current selection of frequency bands and algorithms is adequate to retrieve fire characteristics with the desired accuracy.”

“As such, the WFS mission will serve as a stepping stone to accomplish the long-term objective of establishing a new, potentially commercial, fully operational 24/7 service in the future. WFS could help prepare the user community in Canada and possibly abroad, and thus create the customer- base that would be needed for a future global operational data service to be commercially viable.”

According to the CSA the “The wildfire monitoring business need has been investigated since 2006 and related technology was partly demonstrated in space in 2011.” The demonstration was provided with by the New InfraRed Sensor Technology (NIRST) instrument developed by Quebec based INO.  The NIRST was onboard the Argentinian Aquarius SAC-D mission and according to the CSA “demonstrated with partial results.”

In providing the background on this RFP the CSA said that “in 2012 the Canadian Wildland Fire Monitoring System (CWFMS) was proposed as one of five microsatellite missions to undergo a Phase 0 study which was carried out in 2014-2016. Several Space Technology Development Program (STDP) activities have been carried out in parallel to increase the maturity of the proposed mission enabling instrument technology.”

Now the CSA says the “Phase A activities are undertaken to confirm that the mission can be implemented by the Canadian industry within a cost cap.” That cost gap is set at a maximum of $31M “for contractor activities (all mission activities performed outside GoC organisations) during Phases B through D up to the completion of the commissioning (including launch cost) of the WFS mission.”

Proposals are due by June 4, 2019. The resulting contract is valued at $1.35M.

About Marc Boucher

Marc Boucher
Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactice Inc. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 27 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.